Any weed lovers out there? I’m talking about the legal variety 🙂
I found some purple lamb’s quarters at the farmers’ market. Was lured by its pinkish-purple leaves, quite flashy for an everyday weed.
Lamb’s quarters is a wild, edible, leafy green, a species of the goosefoot or pigweed family. Like many other weeds (e.g., purslane, dandelion, chickweed, mallow), lamb’s quarters is often seen as a nuisance, pulled from the ground and tossed aside with little thought.
The idea of eating weeds may not sound appealing, but they’re unique and tasty, and highly nutritious. And best of all, free (if you forage for them yourself or simply pull them from your yard).
Lamb’s quarters has a mild flavor, along the lines of spinach. You can steam them or saute them with a little olive oil, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper. Add them to soups and stews, omelettes, pasta, smoothies, make a pesto with them, savory pies (spanikopita-esque)…just to toss a few ideas out there.
Had this idea to blanch the lamb’s quarters and then puree it. Blanching and then plunging the lamb’s quarters into an ice water bath helps to retain its green color. When pureed, lamb’s quarters turns into a most stunning, vibrant, bordering on neon, shade of green, which gives the finished risotto an interesting look to say the least.
One large bunch of lamb’s quarters will yield about 6 to 8 ounces of strikingly green puree.
I also added a little fresh tarragon and chives to the puree for an added pop of flavor, but you can experiment with other combinations of fresh herbs.
Instead of your traditional risotto made with rice, decided to give barley a try. Alternatively, you could use farro or other types of wheat berries.
I added the lamb’s quarters puree at the very end and took it off the heat shortly thereafter. If cooked too long, the puree turns from a beautiful green color to a drab shade of green. Still tastes good, but not nearly as pretty.
Topped with toasted chopped pistachios for some crunch…
Purple Lamb’s Quarters Barley ‘Risotto’
serves 4, as a first course
1 large bunch lamb’s quarters leaves (about 4-5 cups)
2 scant tablespoons fresh *tarragon, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped, divided
1 cup pearled, hulled barley
6 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, grated or crushed to a paste
1 tablespoon of lemon zest, grated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan plus extra for garnish
Roasted pistachios, roughly chopped for garnish
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over finished dish (optional)
To make the lamb’s quarter puree: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath. Quickly blanch the lamb’s quarters leaves until just wilted and then plunge into the ice water bath. Drain and transfer the blanched lamb’s quarters to a blender, along with 1 scant tablespoon fresh tarragon and 1 tablespoon chives. Blend, adding just enough water (about 4-5 tablespoons) until you have a very smooth puree. You should have 6 to 8 ounces of puree, depending on the size of your bunch. Cover and set aside.
Toasting the barley: Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the barley on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes.
For the barley ‘risotto’: Bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. In a large deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook stirring often until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the toasted barley, thyme, and 2 cups of stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring often, until the stock is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of stock, allowing it to be absorbed before adding another 1/2 cup, stirring often and adding more stock until the barley is tender and creamy, about 30-40 minutes (you may not need all the stock).
Add the garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice into the barley mixture and stir for another minute. Mix in the Parmesan and remaining 2 tablespoons butter, stirring until well combined. Mix in the lamb’s quarters puree and 1 tablespoon chopped tarragon and 1 tablespoon chopped chives. Remove from the heat.
Serve with toasted, chopped pistachios, a little extra Parmesan, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
*Tarragon is an assertive herb, so you may want to start off with a little less and add more if desired.